• Tag Archives Common Core
  • District 3 GOP Candidates Discuss Education at NSU Forum

    Republicans Rep. Dan Kaiser, Drew Dennert, and Rep. Al Novstrup speak at NSU Noon Forum, 2016.10.13.
    Republicans Rep. Dan Kaiser, Drew Dennert, and Rep. Al Novstrup speak at NSU Noon Forum, Aberdeen, South Dakota, 2016.10.13.

    The Republicans candidates for District 3 Senate and House spoke on education to not quite two dozen neighbors at the Northern State University Noon Forum yesterday. Rep. Dan Kaiser, Drew Dennert, and Rep. Al Novstrup managed to muster more than two minutes of comment on a topic that isn’t their forté, but amidst some useful observations, our Republican candidates lobbed several distractions from the basic mission of educating young South Dakotans.

    Common Core

    In his brief opening remarks, Rep. Dan Kaiser, candidate for reëlection to the House, spoke of his efforts to end Common Core. Rep. Kaiser opposes the “top-down” nature of Common Core; in later comments, he said he would prefer that local superintendents be able to set curriculum standards. That position runs a little at odds with his own 2015 House Bill 1223, which proposed replacing Common Core with the previous set of standards that the state imposed on all local school districts.

    Remember, I supported Rep. Kaiser in that effort, testifying in Pierre that state-mandated standards don’t make teachers better and use up time and effort that could be better spent working directly with students. I still endorse the position Rep. Kaiser expressed yesterday: any superintendent and teaching staff worth their salt know what they should be teaching their students. Any set of state standards serves mostly as an exercise in paper-pushing.

    An NSU education professor rose to assure Rep. Kaiser and the audience that Common Core standards help students develop critical-thinking skills. She said NSU’s teacher-training graduates know Common Core and will be able to teach those standards well.

    Local Control

    Al adopts his opponent's style of moving his arms more when he speaks; Dan and Drew look on approvingly.
    Al adopts his opponent’s style of moving his arms more when he speaks; Dan and Drew look on approvingly.

    Rep. Al Novstrup, who is running to defend the Senate seat his son is leaving, opened his remarks with a paean to local control. Rep. Novstrup said keeping decisions as close to home as possible is a basic Republican philosophy. Ever the multiculturalist, Rep. Novstrup said lawmakers in Washington, D.C., don’t understand the culture of Faith, South Dakota, where bringing guns to school in one’s pickup so one can go hunting later is a great idea, versus the culture of Chicago, where student-vehicle gun racks are perhaps less culturally appropriate.

    Rep. Novstrup said his belief in local control leads him to defer to the experts in the field. This comment is hard to square with Novstrup’s position on past education bills, like 2012 HB 1234, which he supported despite overwhelming expert testimony and evidence that one of that bill’s core reforms, merit pay for teachers, does not work.

    Rep. Novstrup said his faith in local control is not absolute, but he said he and his fellow Republicans apply that principle 99 times out of 100. Hmmm… less local control for counties in CAFO permitting, less local for schools in accommodating transgender students, no local control for counties over sales tax, allowing local control over capital outlay levies but not equal local control over other levies, less local control when the Governor wants an education reform bill, our Republican Legislature has a long record of squelching local control, especially over education, when it suits the GOP agenda. “Local control” is more often just a politically conditional slogan trotted out as an excuse to cut funding and avoid direct responsibility for really bad ideas like carrying guns in school.

    Oh yeah, we’re talking about education….

    House Bill 1182 and Teacher Pay

    Professor Jon Schaff asked the Republican candidates to address 2016 House Bill 1182, the half-penny sales tax passed this year to increase K-12 teacher pay. Rep. Dan Kaiser, who missed all but the last day of the 2016 Session due to family illness, said he probably would have voted against this teacher-pay funding. He said he had issues with whether the money raised would actually go to teachers.

    New House candidate Drew Dennert declined to give a definite answer, but he said he leaned No on HB 1182. Dennert said he’s all for increasing teacher pay, but he sees unfairness in funding that increase by raising the tax on agricultural equipment but not on other vehicles. Dennert said he’s not sure the funding formula (actually part of SB 131, not HB 1182) was good and it did not give small schools a good deal (true, says Tripp-Delmont).

    Rep. Novstrup said he voted for HB 1182, but then spent no time talking about why he voted for the bill, how the bill works, or how it impacts education. Instead, Rep. Novstrup dwelled on himself himself and how he felt the pressure and the great tension of the debate. He admitted he did not take a leading role in the effort to raise teacher pay: “Sometimes I lead, sometimes I listen.” He said he frustrated many lobbyists and interested voters by refusing to take a position on the sales-tax increase until the actual vote and only telling questioners before the vote that he was “listening.” I would suggest their frustration was justified: the Blue Ribbon K-12 task force plan was available for review for over three months before the House voted on HB 1182 in February. Anyone who waited until February to start “listening” was, to put it generously, taking a passive approach to learning about the most urgent policy priority of the 2016 Session.

    Cost of Higher Education

    Offered a question about how to check rising tuition, Rep. Novstrup joked about proposals for free tuition, then non-responded that maybe kids can save money by getting books online. To an audience suggestion that South Dakota should stop shifting the burden to students and get back to carrying more of the cost of higher education, Rep. Novstrup dodged, saying health care costs are eating up the state budget pie.

    Statistical note: South Dakota has historically put a larger share of the cost of higher education on students than the national average. In 1989, student tuition covered 24.5% of the cost of public higher education nationwide but 36.8% in South Dakota. The student share of that tab has increased pretty much everywhere since then, to 47.1% nationwide and 66.8% in South Dakota. A professor who spent nine years in the Indiana university system said he witnessed that state’s cuts in support for higher education. Those cuts drive universities to rely more on grants and research funding, which increasingly comes from corporate and foreign interests. The professor said more public funding is needed to check that outside money and keep universities focused on the public good, not private or foreign agendas. None of the candidates addressed that issue.

    Rep. Kaiser did address the overall cost question by suggesting our universities suffer from administrative bloat. Dr. Schaff seconded that observation, saying that the Board of Regents itself employs so many analysts and other staff that its administrative budget could fund all of NSU’s operations. Rep. Novstrup evaded responsibility, saying that it’s hard to craft a bill and instead preferring that we just have “conversations” with the Board of Regents about increasing productivity.

    Rep. Kaiser cited a 2012 speech by President Barack Obama saying that federal subsidies cause tuition to go up. Rep. Kaiser failed to note that President Obama proposed not ending government support for higher education but targeting that support to campuses that control costs. President Obama also called for increasing federal grants and loans and reducing subsidies to the banks that cash in on student loans.

    Invoking President Obama signaled that it was time to run away from the specifics of education in South Dakota again and blow federal dog whistles again. Rep. Kasier said tuition inflation is tied to overall inflation, which he said comes from a tax-and-spend federal government that is “crippled with debt.” The feds are “destroying the value of our money” with the “hidden tax” of inflation. Dennert jumped in, saying that inflation is a big problem, what with the Federal Reserve printing money without restraint.

    "O.K., what we meant was, hyperinflation is right around the corner, just like it has been since Barack Obama took office...."
    O.K., what we meant was, hyperinflation is right around the corner, just like it has been since Barack Obama took office….

    Professor Schaff noted that the Consumer Price Index is around a relatively low 2%. The most recent release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the CPI over the last 12 months rose 1.1%. Another professor in the room, Dr. Steven Usitalo, said inflation is “largely nonexistent.”

    Merit Pay Stinks!

    Linking to the discussion of administrative bloat, Forum organizer Dr. Art Marmorstein said that the merit pay scheme mandated by the Legislature has become a “bureaucratic nightmare.” Dr. Marmorstein said performance reviews used to be much simpler affairs but now, as the basis for pay raises, require far more documentation. Dr. Usitalo supported that statement, saying he has several hundred pages of evaluations to review. Dr. Marmorstein urged the Republican candidates to get rid of merit pay.

    None of the Republican candidates offered a response on that topic.

    Consolidate and Close?

    Dr. Usitalo asked if the decreasing youth population justifies asking whether we have too many campuses. Joking shushes and nervous laughter rose from the audience. Rep. Novstrup said enrollment is up… which is true over the last two decades but ignores the six-year post-recession flatline. Dr. Usitalo noted that enrollment increases rely on recruiting out-of-state students.

    Another audience member suggested that the Regents could save money by closing “university centers,” the satellite campuses established ten years ago to serve larger towns without universities. Rep. Novstrup explained that we established the university centers to help working students in large non-university towns get degrees. He said that plan did not anticipate the swift growth of online education. It seems that, just like Amazon, online education can meet demand without expensive brick-and-mortar facilities in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, but Rep. Novstrup says its hard to abandon nice new buildings. (Two words, Al: sunk cost.)

    Amendment R: Vo-Tech Governance

    Local GOP veteran Duane Riedel called for the defeat of Amendment R, saying that there’s no need to create a new bureaucracy (and new expense!) to do work that the school boards in Watertown, Sioux Falls, Mitchell, and Rapid City are doing just fine right now. Riedel’s Republican standard-bearers appeared to disagree. Rep. Kaiser acknowledged that passage of R could increase costs, but he seemed to lean toward trusting the Legislature to do the follow-up. Dennert said R isn’t perfect, but the current system of vo-tech governance by entities other than the Board of Regents violates the state’s constitution (true!). Rep. Novstrup said voting Yes on R allows the Legislature to leave the system as it is. Besides, said Rep. Novstrup, the Board of Regents has “no desire” to run the vo-techs, and the vo-techs have no desire to be so run. Rep. Novstrup said no one wants a Regental–vo-tech marriage, to which Riedel responded, “Get the shotgun out.”

    Distance Education

    Aberdeen resident and graduate student Zach Anderson asked if the expansion of distance learning degrades local control and promotes school consolidation. The incumbent legislators said the opposite is true. Rep. Kaiser said distance learning allows small, remote districts like Faith to offer more learning opportunities. He also suggested that distance learning provides useful competition… although against just whom Faith is competing against went unstated. Rep. Novstrup said distance learning helps small schools stay open. He called distance learning a “life raft” for small schools and a “home run” for NSU, which provides e-learning services statewide. Apparently agreeing that distance learning is good, Dennert said he opposes school consolidation and sees small towns as the historical “lifeblood” of South Dakota.

    The distance learning discussion was one area where District 3’s Republican Legislative candidates spoke directly about the active role the Legislature can play in funding services that directly improve educational opportunities for students in South Dakota. The GOP candidates seemed less inclined to take a leading role in improving educational opportunities in their discussions of university centers, the bureaucracy of merit pay, the need for better K-12 teacher pay, or the state’s interest in supporting higher education.

    We’ll see if Democratic District 3 candidates Brooks Briscoe, Nikki Bootz, and yours truly can address South Dakota education issues any more directly at the next NSU Noon Forum, Wednesday, October 19, at the Beulah Williams Library. (By the way, Dr. Marmorstein serves bagels! Free chow!)



  • Judge Barnett Rejects Common Core Lawsuit, Says SD Participation in Testing Compact Legal

    Last November, the Thomas More Law Center of Michigan got two South Dakota moms to be their front for suing the state over its participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which puts together the standardized tests we use to make sure our kids are meeting the Common Core standards. Last week, the Thomas More Law Center lost.

    Let us pause for a moment and enjoy the fact that Marty Jackley’s office is doing a better job of winning cases against right-wingers than for right-wingers.

    The Thomas More Law Center argued that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (branded like Fox News—”Fair and Balanced”?) violates the Constitution’s prohibition on interstate compacts. Jackley predecessor-turned-Judge Mark Barnett says the plaintiffs’ alleged facts “seem thin and require artful interpretation” [p. 7]. Judge Barnett agrees that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is a compact, but he affirms the analysis I offered last November that the SBAC neither usurps federal authority nor subjects states to excessive federal authority. Judge Barnett finds that South Dakota’s agreement with the SBAC does not require it to administer the Smarter Balanced tests; our use of the Smarter Balanced tests and the Common Core standards on which they are based is entirely up to us:

    It is worth nothing that the State has complete freedom to regulate its education policies concerning assessments and standards. The State chose to adopt Common Core state standards. The next step was for the State to seek a standardized test which reflects those achievement standards. The State chose the Smarter Balanced test (over the PARCC test or any of the many other tests provided). The State made a broad sea-change in its educational policy and adopted the Common Core standards. If the State decides to change their educational policies and standards again, it is free to withdraw from SBAC and re-instate prior standards or adopt new standards. Ultimately, it is the State’s choice. Because it voluntarily adopted new standards, the State voluntarily joined a consortium to help defray the cost of developing an assessment test while also having some input and decision-making responsibility as a governing member [Judge Mark Barnett, Memorandum Decision, Mauricio and Grinager v. Dennis Daugaard et al. (Case No. 32CIV15-000292), 2016.06.13, p. 16].

    Judge Barnett supports his argument by pointing to the withdrawal of Oklahoma, Missouri, Wisconsin, and South Carolina from the consortium. He also notes that Texas never adopted Common Core standards. If they can do it, so can we. We exercised our sovereignty by adopting Common Core and joining SBAC; we can still exercise our sovereignty by quitting Common Core and SBAC whenever we want.

    District 16 House candidate Kevin Jensen can joke about “Obama-Core” all he wants, but he and the Thomas More Law Center can’t blame President Obama for Common Core and the Smarter Balanced tests. They need to blame Dennis Daugaard, his Department of Education, and the South Dakota Legislature, who have all willingly and, per Judge Barnett, quite legally bought into the churning charade of standards and tests, standards and tests.

    p.s.: Judge Barnett also rejects an argument from the plaintiffs that I actually liked, their contention that the SBAC computer-adaptive tests violate state law by giving students different questions based on their performance question by question. Judge Barnett notes that the statute to which plaintiffs appeal, SDCL 13-3-55, requires that schools give students the “same assessment”, not the “same questions.”



  • Michigan Culture Warriors Help SD Moms Sue State over Common Core Tests

    Realtor Amber Mauricio of Sioux Falls and former Meade County school board member Shelly Grinager of Summerset
    The plaintiffs: Realtor Amber Mauricio of Sioux Falls and former Meade County school board member Shelly Grinager of Summerset

    The Thomas More Law Center of Michigan is taking South Dakota to court over Common Core. Taking the same tack as a lawsuit that won in district court in Missouri, the Michigan organization, under the names of South Dakota plaintiffs Amber Mauricio and Shelly Grinager, is now challenging South Dakota’s participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which produces the tests we now use to ensure that our students and teachers properly hew to the Common Core standards.

    In a complaint filed November 10 in Hughes County filed against the Governor, the State Secretary of Education and her office, the State Treasurer and his office, and the State Board of Education, the Thomas More Law Center argues that the SBAC is an illegal interstate compact in violation of Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3, of the United States Constitution:

    No state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.

    An interstate compact violates the Compact Clause if it touches on a political matter and infringes on either federal sovereignty or the rights of states not party to the compact. The plaintiffs don’t seem to meet those standards. They argue that the states are collaborating with the federal Department of Education to undermine Congress’s authority, and that the SBAC puts the screws to non-compact states by subjecting them to the loss of federal Race to the Top grant money. But that’s not a Compact Clause argument; that’s a federal spending authority argument, one that the states already lost in South Dakota v. Dole (1987). The feds have a right to place conditions on states receiving federal funds. If states want highway funding, they have to adopt a minimum drinking age of 21. If states want Race to the Top money, they have adopt common curriculum standards. If Congress doesn’t like the latter condition, it can wake Mike Rounds up and abolish the Department of Education.

    A better argument against the SBAC tests is buried in in paragraphs 108–110 of the complaint. Kids take SBAC tests online. The tests are “computer-adaptive,” meaning the computer spits out different questions to different kids based on their responses—get a question right, you get a harder question; get a question wrong, you get an easier question. SDCL 13-3-55 says “Every public school district shall annually administer the same assessment to all students in grades three to eight, inclusive, and in grade eleven.” The plaintiffs say that if Johnny and Sally aren’t getting exactly the same questions, they aren’t taking the same assessment, and SBAC violates South Dakota law. Don’t get all Constitutional, TMLC! Just hoist South Dakota on its own statutory petard. That argument is simpler, more straightforward, and more fun.

    Branding itself as the “Sword and Shield for People of Faith” and governed by a Citizens Advisory Board that includes Michele Bachmann, Allen West, and Alan Keyes, the Thomas More Law Center ought to be best buds with the theocrats and culture warriors in Pierre. But now we can let them fight each other over a testing regime and standards that are already dwindling on their own. This is education: give ’em a few years, and they’ll throw Smarter Balanced tests and Common Core in the dustbin and work up a whole new set of standards and tests to keep the consultants busy.



  • SD K-12 Student Proficiency in Math, English Drops 30+ Points; Common Core Test Meaningless

    Art Marmorstein, NSU history prof and AAN columnist, notes that the results of the first Common Core-aligned statewide standardized tests seem to suggest disaster has struck South Dakota’s K-12 schools:

    Last month, South Dakota Department of Education officials gave us some shocking news about the state of our schools. Last spring’s achievement tests indicated that only 49 percent of South Dakota K-12 students are proficient in English Language Arts. In math, things are even worse: only 41 percent of students are proficient or better.

    No need to worry, say our education officials: We thought things would be even worse.

    And, apparently, few of us are worried, though maybe we should be. This is a dramatic decline from 10 years ago when 74 percent of South Dakota students were deemed proficient or better in math and a remarkable 82 percent were proficient in reading [Art Marmorstein, “Quiet Month at the Department of Education,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.10.07].

    If words had meaning in the world of standardized tests, saying that the number of students proficient in core subjects has dropped over thirty percentage points in a decade should make us all go to parent-teacher conferences (October 22–23 for Aberdeen elementary and middle school students! Be there!) and ask what the heck happened.

    But as Marmorstein recognizes, the word “proficient” doesn’t mean what it meant ten years ago. We’ve rejiggered the tests to follow all new standards with no connection to how we previously measured student achievement. It’s as if the EPA switched its fuel economy ratings from English to metric but refused to tell us that a liter is 0.2624 gallons and a kilometer is 0.6214 miles. Our Common Core test switch has thus made it impossible to take any long view of student achievement prior to 2014.

    In other words, last spring’s tests are meaningless until we get several more years of testing data to put this year’s results in context.

    And by the time we have that data, the Common Core fad will have run its course, just like No Child Left Behind and whatever came before that. We’ll churn policy with a new round of reforms, and Dr. Marmorstein will be able to publish a very similar lament about some new, useless standardized test.



  • State Education Board to Consider Social Studies Standards in August; Where’s My Socialism?

    The call for a special session, whether to rehash Common Core or discuss genuine K-12 funding policies, will likely fail. If you want to talk K-12 funding, you’ll have to wait for the next Blue Ribbon K-12 meeting in Pierre August 19.

    Logo for state social studies standards, updated 2015.03.18
    Logo for state social studies standards, showing centrality of the “C3 Framework” (Career, College, Citizenship), updated 2015.03.18

    If you need to scratch your Common Core itch, I was going to direct you toward the state Board of Education meeting next week… but South Dakotans Against Common Core inform us that the board failed to give proper public notice of one important part of their hearing and thus had to reschedule. The board will still meet by phone next Monday to discuss some frittery rule changes.

    But the yummy stuff comes next month, August 24, when the board will meet in Rapid City to discuss new social studies standards, which should set K-12 distractionalists’ antennae all a-twitch.

    The proposed draft standards come to us from a 35-person committee that included at least 28 active social studies teachers. Everyone on the committee appears to be a South Dakotan, so no sign of nefarious federal mandates yet (not that Common Core ever was a federal mandate, but I’m just trying to think like the folks who shout about Common Core for the wrong reasons).

    Alas, the standards committee relied heavily on material from the C3 Framework, a simple idea that says social studies ought to prepare kids for college, career, and citizenship. And who wrote the C3 Framework? The same folks who wrote Common Core:

    An author of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is behind the C3 Framework as well — the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). According to the documents, the C3 Framework was developed in response in state requests for further clarity on what college and career preparation (a key principle in the development of the Common Core) would look like in social studies classes in particular. As you likely know, the Common Core itself only outlines the literacy skills that social studies students are expected to learn; it does not outline discipline-specific, non-literacy skills [Dve Stuart, Jr., “What’s the C3 Framework, and How Does It Affect Your Social Studies Class?” Teaching the Core, 2012.11.28].

    Just like Common Core, the C3 Framework was a collaborative, state-led effort. Just like Common Core, the C3 Framework codifies pretty straightforward concepts that good teachers already know into fancy graphics that impress administrators and bureaucrats. Just like Common Core, the C3 Framework will like be replaced and forgotten by the next wave of education reform in ten or twenty years.

    But if I were a Common Core hawk, I’d be going nuts. The same folks who brought Common Core to math and English are now trying to write the agenda for the social studies classroom. Aaaaaahh! Sound the alarm!

    *   *   *

    Social studies includes economics, so if Common Core is a socialist plot, that’s where one might expect to find the most Soviet propaganda. Let’s look for socialism in the economics skills the social studies committee expects our kids to execute:

    • Kindergarten: Describe the difference between wants and needs.
    • First Grade:
      1. Distinguish between goods and services and how families use them.
      2. Describe ways in which people earn money.
    • Second: Identify goods and services available in the students’ communities.
    • Third:
      1. Explain ways producers use resources to produce goods and services.
      2. Use examples to show that people in modern society may not be able to produce everything they want and depend upon trade with others to meet their wants.
    • Fourth:
      1. Discuss what factors (both positive and negative) influence individual choices.
      2. Describe the necessity for government to collect taxes from its citizens in order to provide services to its citizens (Will this include a guest speaker from the Libertarian Party to tell us taxation is theft?)
      3. Describe how the economic needs of South Dakotans and people in other regions of the US have been met
        (which will have to include discussion of our reliance on socialist wealth redistribution).
    • Fifth:
      1. Explain how supply and demand influences sellers in markets (ah, capitalism!).
      2. Explain the role of money as a means of trade between individuals and/or groups.
      3. Explain the meaning of inflation, deflation, and unemployment.
      4. Describe examples of various institutions that make up economic systems.
    • Sixth
      1. Explain societies’ attempts throughout history to satisfy their basic needs and wants.
      2. Identify basic economic systems present throughout ancient civilizations and how those systems contributed to the success or failure of the respective civilization.
      3. Identify the effects of economic systems on society.
    • Seventh:
      1. Describe the relationship between government and economic systems in different countries.
      2. Describe how economic activity affects standard of living.
      3. Describe how technology affects the economic development of places and regions.
      4. Describe the role of trade barriers and agreements in the global economy (the thin edge of the wedge for discussing globalism?).
      5. Explain how the availability of resources provides for or challenges human activities
    • Eighth:
      1. Describe the impact of technology and industrialization on mid-1800s America.
      2. Describe the economic effects of Reconstruction in the United States.
      3. Identify economic support for America during conflicts.
      4. Describe how economic gain was the motivation for westward expansion (wait: the motivation? what about population growth, political machinations, Christianity, and the desire for adventure?)
    • High School (The standards lump grades 9 through 12 all together, since high schools offer different courses at different times):
      1. Through the construction of compelling questions, explain how the fundamental economic problem of unlimited wants with limited resources reflects enduring issues at all levels.
      2. Analyze the factors that may lead to different responses to the basic economic questions.
      3. Differentiate among the factors of production of land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship.
      4. Analyze the relationship between households and businesses in a market economy using the circular flow chart.
      5. Define and assess advantages and disadvantages of sole-proprietorship, partnership, and corporations in a market economy.
      6. Explain how scarcity, choice, and opportunity costs impact economic decision making at all levels by using a production possibilities curve.
      7. Apply marginal analysis in the economic decision making process.
      8. Compare and contrast the characteristics of perfectly competitive and less competitive market structures.
      9. Explain the law of supply and analyze the factors that create a change in supply.
      10. Explain the law of demand and analyze the factors that create a change in demand.
      11. Connect the role of supply and demand in creating price and quantity equilibriums in a perfectly competitive marketx
      12. Analyze how price and quantity equilibriums can be impacted through changes in supply, demand, and elasticity.
      13. Explain the concerns with surplus and shortage in the marketplace and what factors can potentially create disequilibrium in a market.
      14. Identify and critique the socio-economic goals of various countries including the US.
      15. Analyze and explain the relationship between households, businesses, and government agencies in the economy of the US by using the circular flow chart.
      16. Interpret economic indicators used by economists that may lead to differing conclusions regarding the current phase of the business cycle.
      17. Predict the degree of economic impact of different types of unemployment and different variables creating inflation by using appropriate data.
      18. Describe the ways in which each level of government in the US generates revenue and critique the method of using that revenue for public services.
      19. Analyze the potential positive and/or negative impact of changes in government policy.
      20. Compare and contrast economic stabilization approaches to the US economy.
      21. Explain the structure of US banking system.
      22. Assess and critique the tools used by the Federal Reserve System to influence the money supply.
      23. Compare the general characteristics of communism, socialism, and capitalism.
      24. Give a detailed explanation of the characteristics of capitalism citing examples from the US.
      25. Weigh the impact of factors such as the availability of economic resources, level of technology, and degree of economic freedom on a nation’s economic growth.
      26. Explain, citing evidence, why the US is an example of a mixed economy.
      27. Differentiate between a developing and newly developed nations.
      28. Analyze differing arguments regarding the impact of transitional economies on the global economy and specificallyon the US economy.
      29. Apply the concept of comparative advantage to explain why goods and services are produced in one nation versus another.
      30. Construct an argument for free-traders and construct a counter-argument for protectionists.
      31. Identify and critique various barriers to international trade.
      32. Identify and provide the historical foundations for various international trade agreements and any impact on the US economy.
      33. Explain the impact of exchange rates on the value of goods and services.
      34. Analyze how the global economy has changed the interaction of buyers and sellers in the US economy.

    Boy, once the kids hit high school, there’s a lot of comparing and contrasting and critiquing from different viewpoints, but I don’t see any clear bias toward socialism. If anything, high school skill #24 suggests we’ll spend extra time in class talking about American capitalism.

    All those skills are just under economics; the standards list equivalently challenging tasks for civics/government, geography, and history. And on top of that, we still have to make time for kids to learn how to conjugate French verbs and practice for the winter choral concert.

    But review the skills the social studies standards propose for our kids and tell me: do you see any task that is not appropriate for our public classrooms? Do you see any bit of economics, civics, geography, or history knowledge that shouldn’t be on that list, or that has been omitted?

    Those are the real questions folks should ask before they consider taking pitchforks to the Board of Education meeting in August.



  • AP Misportrays Anti-Common Core Special Session Push as Funding Debate

    I can’t figure out why the press is misportraying Rep. Elizabeth May’s call for a special session of the Legislature. It is clear to the South Dakota blogospherereporter Bob Mercer, and reporter Emily Niebrugge that May and the frustrated social conservatives joining her call want to spend a full day in Pierre rehashing their debate over Common Core. But the AP story that made the rounds Sunday is headlined, “Legislators Call for Special Session to Talk Education Funds.”

    The full version of the story even has Rep. May muddying the waters about her intent:

    May said that all costs associated with education funding should be considered. That includes the price tag of Common Core, which she said should be accounted for in the “crisis of the funding situation that we are facing in the state of South Dakota.”

    “I’m not calling for the end of Common Core,” May said. “But I also am not going to allow them to ignore the fact that there is an expense involved in all of that” [“Legislators Call for Special Session to Talk Education Funds,” AP via KTIV-TV, 2015.07.12].

    You are too calling for the end of Common Core, Rep. May. AP, you should not spin a different story. Rep. May has consistently called for the end of Common Core. The elimination of Common Core is an ideological issue, not a fiscal issue, since even May’s allies in fighting Common Core generally say they want to replace these K-12 education standards with other top-down standards, which will cost as much to teach and test and more to implement in the generation of new documents and textbooks and training sessions for teachers.

    The easiest way to make Common Core a real fiscal issue would be to argue that we should lock the Common Core standards in place in perpetuity to end the costly policy churn that sees teachers having to digest shiny new standards every decade or so. But Rep. May and friends aren’t doing that, and the press should not pretend they are.

    Update 08:25 CDT: But wait! My conservative friends send me the video of the Thursday, July 9 press conference in which Rep. May formally announced their push for a special session. View Part 1 and Part 2 (posted in thrilling vertical-phone layout by Florence Thompson) and decide for yourself what the focus of the special-session call is:

    Rep. Elizabeth May:

    • “There’s plenty of data out there to show the vast amount of money does not lead to higher quality education.” If that statement signals any desire to fix funding, it’s an ominous signal for the folks paying attention to the free market and thinking we need to raise teacher pay.
    • “We know that there’s a high cost associated with Common Core Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessment, and we also know that those costs are going to be shifted to the local taxpayers.”


  • Teacher Pay, Not Common Core, Deserves Special Session

    Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Kyle) and other members of the Legislature’s Mugwump Rump are calling for a special session. The KCCR interview with Rep. May Wednesday made it sound like she and her conservative pals might be ready to broaden their horizons and tackle K-12 funding. Alas, in their Thursday press conference, May and friends reverted to form and admitted they just want to get together on August 17 to abolish Common Core:

    The legislators — state Sen. Phil Jensen and state Reps. Elizabeth May, Lance Russell, Lynne DiSanto, Chip Campbell and Sam Marty — are criticizing a Blue Ribbon Task Force appointed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard to help resolve the funding crisis that is keeping teacher salaries low.

    At a press conference Thursday in Rapid City, the six said they have been shut out of the task force’s deliberations because their priority is eliminating Common Core from South Dakota education standards. Russell also used the conference to propose possible solutions to the fiscal squeeze.

    The group wants a special legislative session to discuss Common Core, which South Dakota adopted in 2010 [Emily Niebrugge, “Legislators Aim for Special Session to Eliminate Common Core Education Standards,” Rapid City Journal, 2015.07.10].

    I was willing to drive to Pierre during the regular session in February to help my conservative friends argue against Common Core. Legislators heard us out and shot us down. They shot the anti-Common Core bill down again after Rep. Dan Kaiser (R-3/Aberdeen) revived the bill with a smokeout. There is no reason to believe the even more extraordinary measure of convening the Legislature in August for a single-issue discussion would produce any different result.

    Nor is there reason to believe that banishing Common Core would do anything to alleviate the teacher shortage. Rep. May likes to say that the burdens of Common Core contribute to driving teachers out of the profession (and I agree that Common Core is nothing but a pain in my classroom keester). However, Rep. Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs) says that he’d replace Common Core with the standards we used to have, which shows that Rep. Russell is missing the point. He and May and the other conservatives aren’t really trying to free teachers from the burdens of unnecessary standards and tests imposed by the state; they’re just hollering about Common Core for their own ideological reasons, with no real focus on making teaching more appealing by lifting state mandates.

    Blogger and teacher Michael Larson says these Common Core wranglings distracted legislators from discussing K-12 funding last session. A special session on Common Core would be a similar waste of time. Journalist Bob Mercer throws a similar BS flag, not just at May’s special sessioneers, but at the Governor’s Blue Ribbon K-12 panel:

    If teacher pay is the problem, in a state that perpetually ranks at the bottom of the national ranking for teacher pay, there is only one way to address the situation, and that’s to find the two-thirds majorities needed in the House and the Senate to approve revenue increases and dedicate the money to paying more to teachers. A special session is window shopping — and so is a Blue Ribbon task force, frankly — without a solution of more tax money in hand [Bob Mercer, “Common Core Opponents Won’t Quit,” Pure Pierre Politics, 2015.07.10].

    Rep. May, I don’t want to believe that you and Senator Jensen and Rep. DiSanto are using Common Core as a decoy to forestall the arguably liberal solution of raising taxes and spending more money on teachers, a solution so obvious that even the doggedly objective and restrained Bob Mercer can’t refrain from proposing it. I want to believe that you want to repeal Common Core and boost teacher pay for the good of our teachers and students.

    The Legislature should be able to do two things at once, but right now, with respect to K-12 education, I’m not convinced that’s the case. If you’re talking K-12 education and talking about anything other than raising teacher pay, you’re not part of the solution. A special session should be special—i.e., it should do something that the Legislature doesn’t usually do, like talk about a real fiscal remedy to Pierre’s generation-spanning neglect of K-12 funding. We know the remedy, and we could do it in one day. Common Core and other external, top-down standards are an important but mostly separate national issue, not a factor that contributes to the unique market factors causing the teacher shortage that South Dakota must fix.



  • Anti-Common Core Activists Eying Blue Ribbon Meetings

    Uh oh—I’m going to have to get cranky with my anti-Common Core friends for trying to crash the Blue Ribbon party.

    South Dakotans Against Common Core is encouraging its followers to fill seats at the six just-about-public meetings of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students (BluRTFTS) in June. Naturally, the Common Core opponents will want repeat what they’ve been telling the Governor’s people and their legislators for years: Common Core is bad for students, bad for teachers, bad for schools.

    While I appreciate any citizen’s willingness to participate in public policy meetings, I’m not sure the BluRTFTS meetings are the proper venue for fighting Common Core. Governor Dennis Daugaard created BluRTFTS to discuss teacher pay (or at least to prolong the discussion to postpone action for at least another year). The question the Governor says this panel is to answer is, “What possibilities are there to meaningfully fund education for our kids and our communities?” BluRTFTS isn’t about standards, curriculum, or tests. BluRTFTS is about funding.

    Common Core costs money, but it’s not the kind of big ticket item whose elimination would free up the cash we need to make our teacher salaries competitive. Besides, even Common Core opponents aren’t advocating for the complete elimination of external standards and testing; they just want different standards, which would still impose costs and paperwork and, inevitably, time-consuming tests that would still make teachers want to take up other employment.

    If Common Core opponents are coming to the BluRTFTS meetings to propose a plan to mitigate our teacher shortage by eliminating Common Core and marketing ourselves to the teacher labor pool as the state where teachers don’t have to put up with the soul-crushing tests and bureaucracy, then hand them the mic. Heck, if they can show Governor Daugaard that eliminating Common Core would recruit more teachers without raising pay or taxes, he might seize that distraction.

    But if the anti-Common Core crowd is coming to recycle the same old arguments that Common Core is more of Barack Obama’s Mongolia-style socialism, the same esoteric ‘Net-meme propaganda that Team Daugaard and the Legislature have consistently rejected in other meetings, there’s no reason to pitch them at these funding-focused meetings.



  • Aberdeen School Board Candidates Mostly Agree, Admit Common Core Irrelevant…

    …Burdette Shows Research Chops!

    Yesterday’s candidate forum here in Aberdeen brought three of the four school board candidates together to speak to the voters (all three of us in the audience, and whoever switches on local access cable).

    Sherrie Gray, Linda Burdette, and Bradley W. Olson, candidates for Aberdeen School Board, at League of Women Voters forum, Saturday, May 9, 2015.
    Challenger Sherrie Gray (left) joins incumbents Linda Burdette and Bradley W. Olson at the League of Women Voters candidates forum, Saturday, May 9, 2015.

    Challenger Amy J. Scepaniak couldn’t make it, but challenger Sherrie Gray did, as did incumbents Linda Burdette and Bradley W. Olson. I am pleased to report that we Aberdonians have three good choices here. Olson has served on the school board for 15 years; prior to that, he had five years of experience as a city councilman and two years as mayor in Yankton. Burdette served four terms on the board, then took a break before returning to the board. Gray has not held elected office, but she taught for 40 years, mostly second grade here in Aberdeen, before retiring just a couple years. Gray also noted that her mom taught at Simmons Elementary and her dad principaled (my word, not hers) at Adams and Howard Hedger. All three candidates clearly have experience and a passion for education.

    All three candidates are also absolutely clear on the fact that low teacher pay makes it hard to recruit and retain good teachers and that the Legislature makes it hard to raise teacher pay. All three candidates say arts should get the same emphasis and recognition as sports. All three say buying the former Coventry call center to turn it into a new elementary is a good idea.

    As a bonus for my arch-conservative friends, given a strangely worded question about whether kids would be able to compete in the national job market without the Common Core standards, all three candidates said that Aberdeen schools can educate kids just as well with or without Common Core.

    Burdette stood out as my favorite candidate for three reasons. Burdette has a spectacular alto voice. She opened her remarks by saying she’s running because she has “a passion for democracy,” which sounded an awful lot like what I said in my opening remarks during my monologue in the city council portion of the show.

    Best of all, Burdette is packing data. A nursing professor, she cited real research to back many of the statements she made at the mic. On teacher pay, she said South Dakota schools manage to pay just 76% of the regional average. She then debunked the “lower cost of living” excuse our legislators give by pointing out that the Bureau of Labor Statistics says South Dakota pays its non-farm workers 88% or the average regional wage. If we can find 88% for workers across the board, why can’t we find 88% for teachers?

    Burdette then used research to knock a question about term limits out of the studio. Had I been posed a term limits question, I’d have just taken the route Olson did, saying the elections achieve the same goal as term limits. But Burdette surprised me by citing two studies—she said Center for Public Education and Goodman, but darn it! speeches don’t have hyperlinks!—that suggest term limits may undermine effective school performance. Burdette said the Center for Public Education found that a majority of the “effective schools” it studied have board members with over ten years of experience, which translates into healthy organizational stability. Burdette said that Goodman found that effective schools tend to have long-serving board members and superintendents, plus regular strategic planning retreats for board members. In other words, good school governance (like good legislating, Lee?) doesn’t just happen; it takes planning and institutional memory.

    Gray followed Burdette research-backed answer with nothing but feeling and slogans. Gray just feels term limits are good. We need new people and new ideas. Change is good. I had nice conversations with all candidates before the show, and I recognize all three are good people who would bring good skills to the next three years on the school board. But on the term-limits question, from a pure debate perspective, Gray offered no reason to reject the research Burdette offered: term limits are inimical to a healthy school board.

    Aberdeen school district voters will pick two of the four candidates on June 2.



  • Rep. May: Common Core Kills Indian Kids

    I’d love to see the state and the education establishment abandon Common Core and similar exercises in faux-accountability and paperwork. But that won’t happen with opponents claiming that Common Core kills Indian kids:

    We’ve buried eight kids down on that reservation in the last week. We need to sit up and pay attention. I’m not naive enough to think the Common Core is the… is what’s causing all of this, but it’s part of the effect. We’ve got teachers down there who have just quit teaching it, because the kids can’t do it [Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Pine Ridge), remarks on House Bill 1223, South Dakota House, 2015.02.24, timestamp 21:12].

    At this point, Speaker Dean Wink (R-29/Howes) interrupted Rep. May to pull her back to the motion at hand, which was not the Common Core-repealing House Bill 1223 itself but the question of whether to place HB 1223 on the calendar for debate. Even if the House had allowed that debate to happen, the suggestion that Common Core leads to Indian youth suicide sounds more like a high school debate nuke-war disad (the classic argument that demonstrates that any federal policy change leads to mushroom clouds) than a useful legislative contention.

    Suicide is a serious problem for our Native neighbors. The Pine Ridge Reservation has had waves of youth suicides since well before the adoption of Common Core. Dr. Delphine Red Shirt says the despair driving these suicides comes from the culture of fear imposed imposed by colonialism. Maybe we could make the argument that imposing Western rationalist curriculum standards on Indian reservations is one aspect of colonialism. But with the Department of Education warning that repealing Common Core would only require implementing new (Western rationalist) standards, and with Common Core opponents suggesting new standards, the colonialism critique doesn’t get us anywhere on HB 1223.

    But Rep. May wasn’t making that deep critique. She seems to have been colonializing her Indian neighbors again, exploiting their pain to advance her political goal of the moment. This one ill-considered rhetorical tactic only weakened her position, opening education policy critics to ridicule from the national press, which lump her suicide claim in with other wild accusations made by Common Core opponents.

    The Huffington Post lets Rep. May try to explain herself:

    May clarified her comments for The Huffington Post, noting that, “Our suicide rate keeps increasing on the [Pine Ridge] reservation, our kids are under a lot of distress socially and economically.”

    Indeed, the suicide rates of Native youth are disproportionately high around the country.

    May further said she thinks the Common Core State Standards put too much emphasis on standardized testing.

    “Very simple, testing, testing testing. They have to teach to the test. You know and I know and every teacher in the trenches on the reservation know it,” wrote May in an email. “It never is about children and teachers it’s about a bureaucracy.”

    “There’s kids who just won’t go to school,” she added over the phone. “This is not even just about Indian children, but about all of our children. We see it more in the depressed areas of our country. Not all children learn the same. We can’t put everybody inside a box, it doesn’t work.”

    The Common Core State Standards do not necessarily increase amounts of standardized testing, but tests aligned with the standards have been noted for their rigor [Rebecca Klein, “South Dakota Legislator Suggests Common Core Contributed To Kids’ Deaths,” Huffington Post, 2015.02.27].

    We can dismantle Rep. May’s elaboration on straight logic:

    1. “Our suicide rate keeps increasing” indicates the problem has arisen from and will continue as a result of other factors. HB 1223 would not have solved.
    2. “too much emphasis on standardized testing” has been a critique of every standards movement (remember No Child Left Behind?). HB 1223 would have left the testing regime in place.
    3. “This is not even just about Indian children, but about all of our children”—then why did Rep. May’s remarks on the House floor Tuesday talk about suicide among Indian children? Is there a spate of white youth suicides induced by Common Core that Rep. May left unmentioned? This comment sounds like Rep. May realizing she’d made a weak claim and trying to move the debate to a different topic.

    We could beat back Common Core and other centralized intrusions on the art of good teaching with better, more practical arguments. Claiming that Common Core kills Indian kids only invites ridicule that prevents good arguments from being heard.